LaMonica followed, holding the gun under his jacket. He faced Lockhart.

She removed the key from her shoe and unlocked the trunk. The checks were in plain sight in a large open suitcase with straps. 'Drop the briefcase in the trunk and take your checks,' LaMonica said. The fat man complied by closing the suitcase and fastening the latches. He jerked the bag out of the trunk and walked backward, wide- eyed, wary, his gun hand inside his coat.

LaMonica and Hartzbecker climbed back into the sedan. LaMonica started the engine. In the rearview mirror, he saw Lockhart turn around. The fat man broke into a clumsy run and fell down. He jumped up quickly and continued on.

'Did you see that!' Sandy said. She broke into hysterical laughter, and her fists alternated pounding her thighs and the dashboard. 'The fat bastard fell on his ass!' She roared again.

LaMonica eased the revolver into his belt. He started the engine and drove out of the lot.

'We did it!' Sandy said, clapping her hands like a child. 'Twenty-five thousand dollars apiece! I'm out! Out of the shit once and for all!' She stretched out her legs and leaned back in the seat. Her eyes closed. 'I'm going to the Canary Islands. I know people there. It's sunny the year round. All the Germans go there for vacation. I'll fit in easily. Maybe I'll get a job in one of the little art galleries. I could stay there for the rest of my life and no one would ask any questions.' She ran her hands through her hair. 'God, I feel good. '

LaMonica steered south onto a freeway leading to the border. He edged into the fast lane. Sandy broke into laughter again over Lockhart's fall. She wiped tears of mirth from her eyes. An overhead sign read 'Rest Stop — One Mile.'

'I'd better pull over so we can stash the money under the backseat,' LaMonica said. 'I'm afraid they might open the trunk when we cross the border. No use taking any chances at this point.'

Sandy nodded. She leaned back against the headrest and closed her eyes.

LaMonica swung the sedan onto a side road separated from the freeway by a parking island. The usual California rest stop: a grassy area with cement picnic tables and a restroom facility. It was deserted. He pulled to the end farthest from the entrance and parked. Sandy was still resting, eyes shut.

LaMonica pulled the gun and put it to her temple. Her eyes flew open. 'Get out of the car,' he said. There was a look of horror on her face. Tears welled in her eyes. She didn't move.

'Open your door and get out. I won't hurt you if you will get out of the car.'

'Please don't do this,' she said. 'All I want is my part. I earned it. I did the things you asked me to do. I don't deserve this. I came across the border for you. I risked everything.'

'Get out of the fucking car right now!' LaMonica said.

A tear rolled down her check. Still she didn't move. 'People told me that you hated women, that you just used them. You're sick.' Her hand grasped the door handle. She opened the door and climbed out.

Keeping the pistol trained on her, LaMonica followed her out the passenger side. He pointed toward some trees. 'That way … move,' he said.

Her eyes were wide. 'No,' she said. 'I don't want to go over there. You can have the money. Please don't hurt me.' Her hands floated to the surrender position.

LaMonica glanced about. There was the sound of cars zooming by on the freeway, people heading for the border. Stiff-armed, he aimed the weapon at the middle of her back.

He fired.

Sandy flew forward and down, her hands failing to break her fall. LaMonica stepped forward. Aiming at her head, he fired twice. Gasping sounds. Her body twitched about. For a moment he thought he might have heard a sob, but he discounted it as a simple stress reaction. He stepped back. Having looked around again, he pushed the revolver into his back pocket. It was warm.

LaMonica bent at the waist and grasped Sandy's body by the wrists. He dragged it for a long way across the grass to the edge of a small embankment. Without hesitation, he swung the body over the side. Like a mannequin, it rolled along the dirt and grass to the bottom. He stepped back and surveyed the entire area again. He was alone. Before getting back in the car, he hid the revolver in the trunk.

On the way back to Mexico he was careful not to exceed the speed limit.

Chapter 23

The restaurant, a twelve-seater, was directly across the street from the police station. The place was devoid of decoration except for a set of primitive murals painted on the rough-textured walls: serape-clad boys riding burros toward a setting sun; brown, dark-eyed women toting children. There was no air conditioning.

The three cops sat around a Formica table as they waited to be served. Rodriguez had commanded the Treasury agents to order the biggest lobster dish. They had followed orders.

Carr took a sip of Carta Blanca and set the bottle down. 'Purple ink,' he said with a puzzled look.

'I guess we won't find out what LaMonica counterfeited until something printed with purple ink hits the street,' Kelly said. He stared at one of the wall paintings.

'We may not be that lucky,' Carr said. 'For all we know he counterfeited bank certificates of deposit, or some other such security. A scam like that wouldn't be uncovered for years.'

Everyone nodded.

A chunky, dark-haired woman wearing a peasant dress strutted out of the kitchen balancing a platter. She set it down on the table. The platter contained a pile of enormous, steaming lobsters. A young girl, who could have been her daughter, followed her with heavy plates brimming with peppers, refried beans, and rice. She made room on the table and set them down.

Kelly smiled graciously. He tucked a paper napkin into his collar. Nothing was said as the three men went about the business of eating. There was only the crunching of shells, sucking noises and the passing of plates.

Suddenly Rodriguez jumped up, knocking his chair backward. 'Tintamorada!' he cried. Without so much as wiping his hands, he barged out the front door and headed for the police station. Carr and Kelly stopped eating only long enough to shrug.

A few minutes later Rodriguez marched back in the front door holding a single sheet of printed paper with two fingers. He handed the paper to Carr and made a silly bow. He sat down and resumed eating.

Kelly leaned over his partner's shoulder as he read: 'Warning Bulletin — Travelers Chex Incorporated, Houston, Texas…'

In the middle of the page was a color reproduction of a traveler's check. The basic color of the printing on the check was purple.

'That counterfeit check appeared for the first time right here in Ensenada a few days ago,' Rodriguez said. He scooped up some beans with the corner of a tortilla and shoveled them into his mouth. 'I'll bet that even you gringo federales would be able to guess where.'

'Teddy's?' Carr said.

Rodriguez chewed for a while and swallowed. 'Right. That pendejo Teddy Mora deposited the checks in his account at the bank down the street. When they bounced, he told them he had cashed the checks for customers at his bar.' Rodriguez laughed sarcastically. 'As if he would cash anything for the pendejos that hang out in that place.'

'I'll be damned,' Kelly said. He spoke with his mouth full.

'The Travelers Chex security man that came into the Field Office the other day…' Carr said with a furrowed brow. 'This is what he must have been beating around the bush about. But why the questions about Freddie Roth?'

Kelly pulled a paper napkin out of a dispenser. He wiped a mustache of drawn butter off his upper lip. 'Some stoolie probably sold him an old Freddie Roth story.' He shook his head. 'Mr. Greenjeans Freddie Roth no less. Snitches finger him even in death. They should have embalmed him with green ink, God rest his soul.'

After the meal Carr tried to pay. The chunky lady acted insulted and said something in Spanish. Rodriguez pinched her fondly on the cheek. 'She said she honors the badge,' he said.

The three returned to the police station. Carr dialed the telephone number listed on the Travelers Chex

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